What is Crohn’s disease?
Crohn’s disease causes inflammation of your bowel. The disease most often affects the end part of your small bowel (see figure 1). However, it can affect any part of your bowel.
Crohn’s disease causes your bowel wall to thicken, which can block food from passing through. The affected area of your bowel can also fail to absorb nutrients from your food.
Left untreated, you can get problems such as abdominal pain, diarrhoea, weight loss, a hole in your bowel, problems with your back passage and fluid leaking out.
What are the benefits of surgery?
Your symptoms should improve. Your doctor may also be able to reduce or stop your medication.
Are there any alternatives to surgery?
Crohn’s disease can be treated using medication, such as mesalazine, steroids, azathioprine and infliximab. These have side effects and your doctor will discuss them with you.
What does the operation involve?
The operation is performed under a general anaesthetic and usually takes an hour to 90 minutes.
Your surgeon will make a cut on your abdomen and remove the diseased part of your small bowel. They will often also need to remove a part of your large bowel.
Your surgeon will usually join the ends of your bowel back together. If they are unable to join the ends of your bowel, they will make a colostomy or ileostomy.
What complications can happen?
1 General complications
- Infection of the surgical site (wound)
- Unsightly scarring
- Developing a hernia
- Blood clots
- Difficulty passing urine
2 Specific complications
- Anastomotic leak
- Continued bowel paralysis
- Damage to other structures inside your abdomen
- Injury to your bowel
- Abnormal joining together of tissue (adhesions)
How soon will I recover?
You should be able to go home after 5 to 10 days.
It may take up to three months for you to recover fully. Most people feel much better after the diseased part of their bowel has been removed.
Regular exercise should help you to return to normal activities as soon as possible. Before you start exercising, ask the healthcare team or your GP for advice.
Crohn’s disease sometimes comes back and affects another part of your bowel.
Author: Mr Jonathan Lund DM FRCS (Gen. Surg.)
Illustrations: LifeART image copyright 2012 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc.-Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. All rights reserved
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